China said it was ready to pump more money into its economy and saw a pick-up in trade, offering another glimmer of hope for the battered global economy as signs that big U.S. banks may be turning around lifted world stocks.

Japan backed calls from the United States for more government steps to stimulate growth as finance ministers from the Group of 20 rich nations and big emerging powers prepare to meet in Britain to discuss the crisis.

Asian shares rose buoyed by a smaller than expected decline in U.S. retail sales and optimism humbled financial giants such as Citigroup and Bank of America will survive without a government takeover.

Around the world central banks have slashed interest rates and governments have launched stimulus packages to fight what the IMF has called a Great Recession of a severity not seen since the 1930s.

China, the engine of world growth in recent years, has rolled out a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) plan to expand and speed up government spending, and Premier Wen Jiabao said it was ready to do more.

We have prepared contingency plans to handle greater difficulties, he told a news conference to mark the end of the annual session of China's parliament. We have prepared enough ammunition and we can launch new economic stimulus policies at any time.


Switzerland's central bank stunned investors on Thursday by intervening in the foreign exchange market to weaken its currency. It was the first big central bank to make such a move to stave off deflation, and raised worries other economies, notably Japan, might follow suit, fuelling protectionism.

Competitive currency devaluation is not likely in Japan now because the risks of sparking trade friction are too great, said Masahiro Sato, joint general manager of the treasury division at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co.

The Swiss can get away with this because of the relatively small size of their economy and the limited role they play in the global economy.

The G20 finance ministers meeting, which was due to begin in southern England later on Friday, will prepare for a leaders summit in London on April 2. A split has emerged, however, between the United States and big continental European nations.

The United States called on Thursday for urgent steps to revive the world economy but got a cool reception in Europe, where German chancellor Angela Merkel said the key thing was to implement previously agreed steps.

Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano supported the call for more stimulus.

We strongly support the thinking that each country's efforts to fix their own economies will, in turn, help the global economy and lead to a stable financial system, Yosano told a news conference before leaving for the G20 meeting.

Japan's financial regulator said it would inject $1.2 billion into three struggling regional banks, Sapporo Hokuyo Holdings <8328.T>, Minami-Nippon Bank <8554.FU> and Fukuho Bank.

Regional banks have been hit hard as plunging exports and sliding property prices have squeezed their customers, leading to rising bankruptcies among small and medium-sized firms.


Demand for the cars, electronics and other consumers goods has slumped in the developed world as the recession grips, hammering the export-driven economies of Asia.

Top South Korean technology companies Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> and LG Display <034220.KS> said on Friday they were braced for a very difficult year.

Developed countries may post negative growth this year, Samsung vice chairman and chief executive Lee Yoon-woo told the company's annual meeting. Demand is expected to decline in some core businesses that had been leading our company's growth.

Data from China earlier in the week showed exports plunged in February, but Commerce Minister Chen Deming said trade volumes had been much stronger in the first 10 days of March and forecast the trend would continue throughout the month.

Share indexes were boosted by the slightly more optimistic tone from Asia and the United States, with Tokyo's Nikkei <.N225> rising 5 percent. <.T> U.S. stocks had jumped around 4 percent on Thursday. <.N>

Citigroup told Reuters the bank did not need an more emergency cash from the government and expects to stay private, while Bank of America said it was profitable in January and February.

It was a welcome sign of stability from two firms at the heart of the financial crisis. Massive losses at big banks tied to risky home loans triggered a dramatic seizure in credit markets that set off the worldwide recession.

The economic situation seems to be better than what people were saying at the beginning of the year -- a view that has come about now that it seems that U.S. banks' earnings may not be atrocious, said Masaru Hamasaki, senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management in Tokyo.

(Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux worldwide; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Jan Dahinten)